Massage Hack #2

Sub-occipital Relief by way of Anterior neck


As a massage therapist, there is nothing more frustrating than working on a person’s body and not being able to make a difference in the tissue.

  • Maybe it’s because the joint isn’t as neutral as it could be, making the soft tissue have to stabilize instead of mobilize.
  • Maybe something on the opposite side of the body or joint is pulling making a tug of war situation limiting mobilization of a joint.
  • Maybe the person is holding on to an emotional pattern which won’t allow a shift in soft tissue or causing chronic lymphatic congestion.

There could be dozens of reasons why a person’s body isn’t responding to treatment.  Over thousands of clinical hours and two decades studying human movement and bodywork, I have developed certain protocols in dealing with acute and chronic musculoskeletal dysfunctions in the body.

In this series, I will provide you with quick, concise, and accurate information on how I have successfully treated certain conditions in the body over and over.  I am making this intellectual information available free of charge because I believe in inclusivity instead of exclusivity, and I want the most number of people on this earth to be able to be helped with this knowledge.

Disclaimer: It is YOUR responsibility to adapt this information to the training you have received and are qualified to do, and work within your scope of practice and laws in your area.

Problem: overly tight sub-occipital muscles at the posterior upper neck, where the neck and cranium meet. These set of muscles can at times seem impossible to loosen up, no matter how you try to mobilize them. Many times these muscles and surrounding fascia are ischemic, and very dense, even up on the occipital ridge of the cranium.

Treatment: soften/mobilize the longus capitis and longus colli muscles located on the anterior neck. What? You say? That’s an endangerment zone. Yes, it can be a tricky place to work, which is why receiving proper training is essential. There are non-invasive ways to soften those muscles indirectly (Ortho-Bionomy) as to minimize risk of dissecting a major blood vessel. There are also safe direct methods to mobilize those muscles with proper training and advanced palpation skills, you can learn how to navigate behind the sternocleidomastoid, up and over anterior transverse process attachments, weave underneath the blood vessels and slide onto the longus muscles without making direct contact with the carotid arteries and jugular veins. With expert palpation skills, you will know if you are on a blood vessel because you will feel a pulse. Constant communication with your client is also essential here as when you are on the correct structure, it will give the client a sensation of having a tension headache. The feeling of headache will go away once you remove the pressure, but it’s the sign you’re on the right muscle. The amount of pressure you would use would not be enough to dissect a blood vessel if you were on one, because you would not add any extra pressure beyond the weight of your own thumb or chosen finger for this work and there is no stripping. Even the direct work is very gentle and deliberate.

Re-Check: In my experience, mobilizing the longus muscles has a profound and immediate effect on the posterior upper neck (sub-occipital group). Usually both myself and the client is amazed on how loose and mobile it feels after doing this protocol


For more information on Ortho-Bionomy classes near you, visit

For more information on career training or CE classes in Indiana, visit


Massage Hack #1

Massage Hack #1 Lower Leg Congestion and the Mobility of the Fibular Head



As a massage therapist, there is nothing more frustrating than working on a person’s body and not being able to make a difference in the tissue.

  • Maybe it’s because the joint isn’t as neutral as it could be, making the soft tissue have to stabilize instead of mobilize.
  • Maybe something on the opposite side of the body or joint is pulling making a tug of war situation limiting mobilization of a joint.
  • Maybe the person is holding on to an emotional pattern which won’t allow a shift in soft tissue or causing chronic lymphatic congestion.

There could be dozens of reasons why a person’s body isn’t responding to treatment.  Over thousands of clinical hours and two decades studying human movement and bodywork, I have developed certain protocols in dealing with acute and chronic musculoskeletal dysfunctions in the body.

In this series, I will provide you with quick, concise, and accurate information on how I have successfully treated certain conditions in the body over and over.  I am making this intellectual information available free of charge because I believe in inclusivity instead of exclusivity, and I want the most number of people on this earth to be able to be helped with this knowledge.

Disclaimer: It is YOUR responsibility to adapt this information to the training you have received and are qualified to do, and work within your scope of practice and laws in your area.

Problem: Massaging lateral half of lower leg prone or supine, distal to proximal, perhaps a deep stripping effleurage, and when you get to the upper 2/3 of the leg, just below the knee a few inches you run into a wall of congestion that can’t get out of the way. Perhaps it’s a ball of stagnant lymph, or it’s short, dehydrated, immobilized fascia, or it’s that the fibular head can’t get out of the way…Or all three and more… It’s painful to the client if you just bulldoze your way through so what do we do?


Treatment: Mobilize the fibular head by whatever scope of training you have had and available techniques in your ‘toolbox’. My training is in Ortho-Bionomy (O-B), positional release of joints, and neuromuscular re-education. So my first technique is the least invasive O-B/positional release to help the fibular head’s reflexes to self-correct, move into neutral, and start to mobilize in both directions equally and easily in relationship to the tibia.


Re-Check: Go back to the original massage technique and check to see if the congestion now has a place to go, the fibula will get out of the way and there will be a clear channel for lymphatic drainage to occur as well as allowing the fascia to stretch into more space. Now there should be less intensity for the client when you repeat the original massage strokes and a shift in tissue can occur.

For massage/career training and CE’s in Indiana visit

For Ortho-Bionomy training near you , visit


“Hey I told you the pain was on the OTHER side”



Have you ever been working on a client who complains of pain in one area of their body but the knot/restriction is actually on the opposite side of the body or joint?


Have you ever wondered why this is? Or how to explain it to clients when you want to work on the opposite side of the body that they are experiencing pain?


My favorite answer is an educational response. I say, “The area you are experiencing pain is the symptomatic area. The cause of the problem may actually be in the antagonistic or opposite side of the body or joint.”


Basically what is going on is that the restricted myofascial area is much stronger than the symptomatic side and often pulls the non-restricted side into an eccentric contraction (a loaded muscle under a stretch). This causes pain in the elongated and loaded muscle because it is constantly having to work to pull the body/joint back into a neutral alignment (and it’s losing the game of tug of war).


As a therapist we have a conundrum. “If I don’t work on the area that is in pain, they won’t feel like I listened to what they needed/wanted. However, if I make the elongated side even longer, I may be making their musculoskeletal alignment even worse.” This is the thought process going through our heads.


The following example is a way I have found to work WITH (not ON) the client to achieve both success and education for the client.


What I will say is that I have a theory that I would like to test and I need their help by giving accurate feedback about how their body feels. I will say that I suspect that there is a restriction on the opposite side of the body or joint that may be pulling the body or joint out of alignment thus causing pain. Then I ask if it would be ok to palpate and observe the tissue.


After assessing the tissue, if the data supports the hypothesis, then I will point out the observations to the client by asking if they feel the restriction and the difference from side to side.


If they do feel the differences, GREAT. If they don’t then this now becomes a lesson in self-awareness for the client as you describe the quality of the tissue from side to side and ask them to observe it with you through palpation and movement.


Then ask if it’s ok if you work on the restriction and see if it helps relieve the pain on the painful side. Once you release the tissue, go ahead and ask them to check the painful area and tell you what they feel. You may want to then bring both sides into as much balance and suppleness as you can, but setting them up for success by certainly addressing the adhesion being the cause of the dysfunction.


You have just educated your client about how the body is constantly trying to move toward neutral to keep us functioning at our greatest capacity. You taught them the the source of pain is often NOT where you feel the pain in the body (when you’re talking about musculoskeletal dysfunction). AND you taught them that the pain can become relieved INDIRECTLY when you work on the restricted side thus bringing the body back to a neutral state.


Now try this with your clients, and have fun discovering how incredibly connected our bodies are.


As always, use discretion using deep tissue techniques as they may not be appropriate for people with special health conditions.

Why I’m Grateful For My Sinus Infection


You’re probably wondering what the heck did she just say? It sounds like the start of an essay for grade-school such as, “Why I Love My Dog.” Yes, I said I’m grateful for my sinus infection and I’ll explain why.

In general I’m a very healthy and active person. I hardly ever get sick, and when I do, it only lasts a short while… Until THIS time.

It usually starts as a viral bug, and 9/10 times I fight it off within 5-7 days. Occasionally (maybe once every 2-3 years) it will be followed up with a secondary bacterial infection, which would need prescription help.

This time… it was viral for 5 days, I would feel better for a day or two, then viral symptoms again for 5 days. Then I felt better for a day or two. Then it came BACK for a third relapse. It’s actually been going on for the ENTIRE month of August.

I’ve been doing all of the suggested things by my General Practitioner, holistic health professionals, well-meaning friends, family, and body-workers. Nothing has helped.

In the past, when I’ve had physical pain or injuries , I’ve used that as an opportunity to learn how to treat those injuries in other people. It made me a more empathetic and knowledgeable therapist. I teach my students to look at their own pain in that way and use it to their advantage.

So, what do I do when I’ve tried everything that’s supposed to work and nothing does? I look at my life, like I would an injured body, and ask, “What is working?” “What is not working?” “WHAT IS OUT OF BALANCE?”

The awareness that the illness has brought to my consciousness about the imbalances and blessings in my life IS THE reason for my gratitude. Here are the lessons I learned:

I realized that work life and personal life was not in balance. The illness forced me to take time off from work, and allowed me the time to actually look at my calendar and create more time off, make REGULAR appointments for massage, chiropractic, physical therapy.

I became aware of the fact that when life gets too busy, I sacrifice MY exercise, MY self care, MY diet…. Which lead me to the question, “Why am I not valuable to MYSELF?” So then I was reminded that I needed to have as much love for myself as much as I love my family, my massage clients, my friends. I started taking my supplements again, made time to stretch, self-massage, and sleep more.

Another BIG lesson…..I needed to let go of some control and let other people take responsibility for things…THEN, I realized how many AMAZING people are in my life who are more than willing and capable to step in and do JUST that!

I’m INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL for my husband, mother, father, brother and in-laws for taking impeccable care of my children on a regular basis, AND for stepping in extra while I was feeling too fatigued on some days to make sure they had proper exercise, meals, and entertainment.

I never have to worry about their safety or well-being because I KNOW they are loved and cared for by all of my extended family.

Another biggie… I think work-balance has been the most profound lesson in all of this. I realized that I had my nose to the grindstone for over three years now pouring intense energy into mastery of my craft, and growing the massage school. I had my hands in every aspect of the business, and this time away has taught me that my staff, students, and peers are capable of handling anything and everything I need them to do, and they do it with a SMILE on their face! I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are all angels walking on this earth.

I learned it IS OK to give up some control. I realized I did a really good job surrounding myself with excellent staff members! They TRULY CAN do anything and everything with supreme professionalism

My students…WOW. When I had to cancel my treatments of regular clients who are in constant pain, instead of them not getting any help, my AMAZING apprentices gladly stepped in to help. My clients got to receive top notch treatments, and I got to rest. That is a sign of TRUE professionalism, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

Would I have learned these lessons without getting sick? Perhaps, over a longer period of time… But this is where the miracle happens… I got to learn all of this in ONE month’s time!


Thank you for the lessons, Universe, I am forever grateful! Now… let the healing begin!




Joint balance + Soft Tissue Release = Marriage Made in Heaven

OB Logo

WARNING: The Following post contains some totally geeky bodywork stuff and jumping right in…


Chiropractors know that releasing soft tissue in conjunction with correcting joint mis-alignments allows the body to stay in alignment longer than without soft tissue release.


Massage therapists know that the muscles won’t loosen up if they are supporting a joint mis-alignment, and so mindful bodyworkers know that it is a marriage made in heaven to receive both joint balance and muscle balance at the same time, or as close to the same time as possible.


Unless you have a chiropractor who works inside your massage practice and schedule your treatments back to back, you probably won’t be able to gain the same amount of benefit that you would if your chiropractor is also a trained massage therapist, or vice versa. For many people, this combination of treatments is not feasible.


However, as MT’s we DO have tools available to us through continuing education. Through CE’s I have found the perfect way of helping set up the conditions for the body’s joints to move more toward neutral, by applying Ortho-Bionomy® techniques. Then, as a trained massage therapist, I can then reassess the tissue and soften any restricted tissue that might pull the joint back out of alignment.


What’s Ortho-Bionomy? GREAT question! It can be described in many different ways. It was founded by a British Osteopath, Arthur Lincoln Pauls, and is based off of Osteopathy. Osteopathy is a branch of medicine that believes the body will heal itself given the right conditions. Ortho-Bionomy® (O-B) is a system/modality of bodywork that sets up the conditions for the body to self-correct. Yes, I said SELF CORRECT.


The way my brain understands it is that O-B works on the level of the nervous system and the fascial (connective tissue) communication network. Parts of the system of this exquisite bodywork involves gentle positioning of the body, and engaging the tissues either energetically, or physically through traction or compression. It takes many hours of training to become proficient at applying the principles and techniques, but well worth the effort!


If you only know me through reading my blogs, you might think all my clients are black and blue when they leave my office, but that’s not usually the case. In fact because I use O-B techniques in my treatments, my clients experience MUCH LESS soreness than with just deep tissue techniques. They tell me all the time, “I thought I would be WAY more sore than I was.”


Learning to use the O-B principles has also changed the way I apply deep tissue techniques. Gone are the days of plowing through restrictions as a more ‘green’ deep tissue therapist. I now honor what the body is trying to support with that restriction, try to understand why it’s there, and figure out a way to relieve the CAUSE of the restriction (instead of just relieving the symptom). This is done through observing joint alignment, reading the body’s posture, asking questions about lifestyle, injuries, applying O-B, etc. Then as a last resort, going into the restriction if absolutely necessary to relieve the pain caused by restricted tissue.


In addition, because of Ortho-Bionomy training, when I apply the deep tissue techniques, it is done with more finesse. I go slower. I put my mind into the tissue and visualize it opening up and letting me in.   I move with the body more, and less against it. Work with nature, not against it. O-B has given me a vehicle with which to work WITH the natural rhythms and cycles of the body in order to help create a state for healing to occur.


Allowing joints to move toward neutral alignment through Ortho-Bionomy® techniques and combining that with adhesion release as needed has allowed my clients to stay pain free longer and has created a niche market for my practice.


For more information on Ortho-Bionomy® please visit


If you want to take classes in Indianapolis, contact the Carmel School of Massage & Healing Arts and visit our website at for our Ortho-Bionomy Class schedule.

Got Pain? Re-Pattern your Body!

pain photo


It has occurred to me that I need to hire a ‘Title Writer” for my blogs.   I seem to be missing the creativity gene that others in my family have. (smile)

This article is about my personal experience living with, and treating people with dysfunctional musculoskeletal patterns in their bodies that cause pain and discomfort.

If you ask people in the massage and bodywork profession why they chose to work in this field, many will say it is because of their own journey toward healing. This is also my story. As a high school freshman high-jumper on the track and field team, I landed with my lower back directly on the bar during a practice jump. It was a traumatic injury that took many years to heal from.  Because I felt almost constant pain in my back, I moved my body into the most comfortable position comfortable to go about daily activities. This position was NOT in neutral alignment, and therefore I compensated with the less painful muscles, tendons, fascia, and ultimately ligaments (which led to joint misalignment) to do the work of the injured ones. This injury became my starting point on a path to find relief.

Fast forward 25 years and I am a deep tissue massage therapist that studied many different modalities of bodywork on my path to find relief. I leaned toward deep tissue therapies because that is what gave my body the relief it needed. I developed a physical strength and an applied working knowledge of structure and function of the body and my strength lies in helping bodies move toward a more neutral, less painful functional pattern.

What I have found in my clinical experience is that many people have dysfunctional patterns in their bodies because of physical trauma, emotional trauma, bad posture, and many other reasons.

I am continuously fascinated by how releasing restrictions in the tissues that are holding patterns can INSTANTLY help to relieve this kind of pain. For years, my clients have been grateful for this gift of healing.

And it lasted…for various amounts of time for each person. Some people never had pain again, for some the relief lasted weeks, and for some just a few days. This intrigued me and I wanted to study this and see what I could do to help make it last longer.

Enter Wendy Cooper, MS, Co-Owner of The Hub by ProMotion Fitness, home of the BioCored Corrective Suspension Training system. (BioCored™ incorporates visual, vestibular and proprioceptive nervous systems to influence pain and performance patterns in the body.) I’ve known Wendy for 18 years, and she is a leader in this community for health and fitness. She has also known me and helped me with my physical struggles for much of that time.

I have been training with Wendy for over a year on the BioCored system and I am extremely pleased with the balance and neutrality it has given my body.   It is what I call “prescriptive exercise”. When you get a private training appointment, it’s all about YOUR body, YOUR pattern and waking up muscles, tendons, fascia that have ‘been asleep’ for a period of time so they can DO THEIR JOB, and help bring the body back to a more neutral state.

I started recommending it to my clients to help support the bodywork they were receiving at my office for the second half of this equation that worked for me. Then Wendy started sending her clients to me for the adhesion release piece. This equation seemed to be working… really, really well. Actually, the results were nothing short of MIRACULOUS… See the before and after picture of two of our clients.

The female as you can see suffered from scoliosis of the lower back, which impaired her ability to stand for long periods of time and walk for exercise without extreme pain. While the pattern is still in her body, because it takes more time for the harder structures of the body to shift (bones), her body is more NEUTRAL and less painful by a huge amount.


(pictures used with permission) 

The male started with BioCored™ and after six weeks made this HUGE postural shift that required deep tissue/adhesion work in order to be able to tolerate the new pattern without suffering from headaches and other body pains. After his first deep tissue session he felt the relief his body needed to support the rapid change. Before picture is on the bottom, note his forward head posture.


Dan Before and After Overlay

As you can see, this is VERY EXCITING NEWS for those of us in this field who so badly want to see all of their clients holding the bodywork longer and feeling pain-free longer.

We have seen that this combination of adhesion release and re-patterning the body through corrective exercise is the key to gaining relief of musculo-skeletal dysfunction causing pain.

Both clients have reported feeling MUCH RELIEF from the combination and continue to receive treatments from both of us regularly.

I also found relief through this kind of therapy in my body.  For me, I had to incorporate one more missing piece, and that’s the modality of Ortho-Bionomy® .  That’s a whole other blog post!

On a side note, Wendy and I have recently been experimenting with working ‘in tandem’ with each other on our clients (in the same hour). It just makes sense to catch the body when it’s trying to do an exercise but can’t do the form properly due to restriction to treat it right away, give the joint a chance to do the exercise properly (in alignment) then immediately re-pattern the neuro-muscular pathways to support the new pattern. Right now this kind of treatment is making waves in the local competitive cycling community, and it is SO exciting to see the results in athletes too!

The Hub Indy is located at 620 S. Rangeline Rd Unit H Carmel, IN  46032.

Phone: (317) 914-4316  Web:

How Football Shaped My Massage Career


I wish I could name this blog, “Just Another Stupid Blog”, but that title was already taken. Anyway… who would care to read a blog written by me anyway? I’m just a massage therapist that started practicing in the fall of 2000, opened a massage school three years ago, and has been extremely fulfilled by passing down the knowledge of this craft to the next generation.

Truthfully, since blogging has become popular, it’s been a long time coming and something that I’ve ‘noodled’ around in my brain for a couple of years. In that time, I realized that I may have acquired a couple of fans in the 14 years of massage therapy I have practiced… some clients, some students, some colleagues. The owner of Earth-Lite Massage Tables, Tomas Nani, specifically asked me to write something about my experience working on professional athletes. So it’s time…

This past week my most loyal and frequent NFL player-client publicly announced his retirement from 11 years of playing professional football.  I realized that I felt a little sadness because not only had I been his ‘go-to’ massage therapist for ALL of those years, but that it may well be the end of an era of working on pro athletes in the NFL for me! The kind of treatment I provided can be most accurately described as ‘Can- O- Whoop-Ass’ deep tissue therapy. I used techniques such as Neuromuscular-Reeducation, Myofascial technique, trigger point therapy and stripping effleurage. I also did joint mobilization and proprioceptive neuro-facilitating stretching (PNF). The purpose was always very clear… INJURY PREVENTION

For the massage nerds out there, this is how it works… When there is restriction in the fascia of a muscle, and the muscle undergoes strain in an uncontrolled environment (such as playing a game of football) the muscle can become damaged above or below the site of restriction. AT the site of restriction the muscle is extremely strong, like re-bar or scaffolding holding strong in that area. In the treatment room (a controlled environment), massage therapists are trained to place just the right amount of strain on the muscle, not so much as to damage it, but just enough to start an unraveling response. The muscle and surrounding fascia becomes supple and more resilient to sudden shifts.

I can honestly say, and I know my pro-athlete client would agree, that during his career, we were successfully able to prevent many injuries. The injuries he did sustain were unpreventable. Never did he have a hamstring pull or groin injury, which are very common amongst football players. On a side note, have you ever seen the size of their thighs, or more specifically the imbalance between the front and back of their thighs? The ratio of muscle mass from the quadriceps to the hamstring is probably close to 4:1. How they manage to stay injury-free as much as they do is truly a mystery to me.

The most frequent question I get asked is, “Don’t you get exhausted from working on those big guys?” My answer has always been NO! I mean YES, it’s hard physical work giving 2-4 hour massages multiple times per week to men who are almost twice my size. But, there is something special about their energy vibration that offsets the output that I give. These athletes vibrate at the highest energy vibration I have ever come across. I mean, think about it. They spend their entire work day exercising, eating right to fuel their ‘machine’, and truthfully… I believe they also spend a LOT of time working on their spiritual growth. How could you be a celebrity athlete, making tons of money and keep it all ‘real’ withOUT spirituality?

Bottom line is… when I get finished with a session with one of these elite athletes, I leave with MORE energy than I came with! They are truly special in that way!

I have had the honor and experience to work on over a dozen NFL players in my career, and I can honestly say that each one was respectful, humble, and down to earth. I feel SO honored to have had the experience of being called to training camp, where it is very unusual for a woman to be invited into the ‘boy’s club’… I was asked to help with rehabilitation efforts in the training facility in Indy, and was fortunate to have had MANY other incredible experiences that I am not at liberty to discuss with this platform. However, if you REALLY want to know, meet with me in person and I will be thrilled to tell you some cool stories! Lastly, I was so humbled and honored when asked to come out to other states to give NFL player treatments during the season. What a testament to the effectiveness of the work!

I always knew this type of work was special, and not every massage therapist had the opportunity to provide the kinds of treatments that I have been blessed to do. I actually became a fan of the game of football because I wanted to see how my clients played, got hit, got injured… so I would know how to treat them the next week. But I never took the time to reflect on my experiences and pay attention to the specialness of the moments, until it became clear that there was an end to this run.

I am grateful for my strong body and hands that have enabled me to provide the kinds of treatments I have for so many years, and for the opportunities that have come my way!

On to the next chapter! Thanks for reading!!

For more information on becoming a massage therapist, contact Nicole at or by visiting